Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What's Next: Maui, Hawaii

Time for some rest and relaxation. I'm off to Maui with my girlfriends.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nespresso: Dharkan vs. Kazaar

Last weekend, I picked up the latest Grand Crus which is now a part of the permanent line, Dharkan and Kazaar. Dharkan's capsule is a dark green while Kazaar is a navy blue. I compared the Kazaar capsules from the Limited Edition and it's the same color.

This is what sets Nespresso apart from other capsule machines...crema.

I don't understand why more fine dining establishments don't use Nespresso machines. The coffee is pretty darn good. Plus, the crema is perfection.
with half & half
Dharkan - 11 intensity
Long roasted with hints of bitter cocoa powder and toasted cereals
with half & half
Kazaar - 12 intensity
Powerful bitterness and notes of pepper, nutmeg and cloves
While I have a fondness for Kazaar (right), the bitterness is a bit much for me. I would prefer to drink Dharkan (left) on a daily basis. Kazaar should be reserved for a day when you have to make that power presentation or need a pick me up for a long distance cycling ride.

Yountville: The French Laundry, Part 2

We were given a personalized menu of the day's menu. We selected the Chef's Tasting menu.
Canape: Salmon Tartar Cornet
salmon tartare, chives, and red onion crème fraîche

Canape: Gruyère gougères

"Oyster and Pearls"
"Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar 

Unsalted butter and salted butter

Brioche and Pan au lait roll 

French Laundry Garden Tomato Salad
Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm, "Pain de Campagne" and Garden Dill Mousse

Sautéed Fillet of Pacific Thread Fish
Hobb's Bacon, Compressed Garden Cucumbers, Slow-Roasted Beets and Brokaw Avocado Puree

Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster
Yukon Gold Potato "Confit," Mokum Carrots, Tokyo Turnips, Arrowleaf Spinach and Sauce Bordelaise

Poached Four Story Hill Farms Poularde
Marinated Black Mission Fig, Petite Garden Onions and Sauce Perigourdine

Herb-Roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Saddle
Eggplant "en Persillade," Garden Squash, Haricot Verts and Stewed Sweet Peppers

"Ossau Iratry"
K&J Orchard Peaches, Young Fennel Bulb and Sicilian Pistachios

Fruit dessert
Huckleberry gelatin, pear

The French Laundry Chocolate Cake

Mignardises: Assorted chocolates

"Coffee and Donuts"
Espresso ice cream semifreddo

Fried cinnamon beignets

Cheesecake and lemon

Caramelized macadamia nuts

Takeaway snack: Shortbread cookies

Two words: Food coma.

While this meal was solid, it was overdue and past it's prime. I definitely had favorites over the years but this experience will go down as the one that almost got away but I should have let it go. Had we gone here before El Cellar de Can Roca or even before Joel Robuchon, it would have been a different story otherwise, it simply can't compare to what's going on halfway across the globe in Japan, Singapore and Spain.

I guess we both hoped each course would be like a hit record and the entire meal would be off the charts but it wasn't. Every dish was plated beautifully, the ingredients were as fresh as it can be but I thought the highlight of the meal was the desserts. By then, a food coma had arrived and we literally left most of the mignardises on the table. I didn't have the heart to take them home.

Note to self: Don't drink a half bottle of wine by yourself. I was drunk halfway through the meal. I even forgot to take photos of the second round of bread service. Most of the course descriptions were forgotten or I stopped paying attention.

I was a bit distracted. Why? I kept staring at a server that looked just like the one who I met at Alinea in 2011. Could it be him? No way. But damn he looked so familiar. It has to be the wine. I probably should have stopped drinking. Then I had enough courage to ask him, "Did you use to work at Alinea?" And he replied...Yes. Plus he remembered me from two years ago.


That was the highlight of the day. Hubs thought I was hardcore for knowing someone at the French Laundry and formerly from Alinea. Alex will be permanently imprinted in my memory. Same goes for the other servers I've met in Tokyo (Sylvan), Hans (Monaco) and Jonathan (Singapore).

Until we meet again.

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yountville: The French Laundry, Part 1

Only a few with the will to dial vigorously for an hour to land these coveted reservations are rewarded with...walking through the blue door. Fortunately for us, I took the easy way out and had someone else call for us.
Stayed tuned for a lengthy post on our long awaited dining experience.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Preview: The French Laundry

Before I try to write an elaborate post on our experience at the French Laundry, I wanted to provide some context on how we got reservations.
Bottom line: We got lucky. I should have bought a Powerball ticket.
Basically I asked Visa Concierge to "try" to book a reservation at TFL for any weekend in August. No such luck. I was left on a waiting list for several days. Having failed for the Nth time, I figured I should book dinner at another restaurant. That happened to be Benu.
Fast forward a few days before we were to leave to Napa, I had this revelation. A thought came into my mind that maybe, just maybe we might dine at the French Laundry. I was also contemplating that I could use the money to buy new carbon fiber wheels for my road bike. Decisions, decisions...I cancelled the Benu reservation on a hunch.
So August 10th rolls around and I'm thinking, "Wow, this anniversary sucks." We spend the day in San Francisco and we come back to the hotel to take a nap before dinner. I dump Benu to dine at...Bouchon. It was a really early reservation so we had to leave the hotel to drive to Yountville around 3pm.
All of a sudden my phone rings. I thought it was my alarm but it was actually...
The French Laundry...
Thankfully, I had their number on my phone or I would have mistaken them for a telemarketer. I answer the phone with my work voice, "Hello, this is Jocelyn."
After that it was a blur. The lady on the other line said something about...cancelled reservation, celebrating an anniversary, waiting list, an open table on Sunday.
All I knew was...don't hang up, say yes and give them your credit card number to seal the deal. So that's how we got reservations at the French Laundry.
Pure luck and a gift from God.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yountville: The French Laundry Garden

Need a job? How about being a culinary gardener. A fancy title for someone who manages to keep bugs out of gardens of highly acclaimed restaurants. This garden seems larger than the last time I was here. There are more than 300 types of produce on the grounds which supply Thomas Keller's  French Laundry and Ad Hoc restaurants. I thought the purple tomatoes were unique. There were a variety of colored tomatoes from green, red, orange, yellow and purple. The garden is surely a must see.